Drop the Dropper and Dupe ’em with the Dry

An over-reliance on the dry/dropper rig comes at the cost of the dry fly experience

A trout rising to a solo dry fly is a beautiful thing

Droppers in the Bedroom

Eavesdropping at the boat ramp, I overheard a pair of weathered guides opining on the prevalence of dry/dropper rigs. To the best of my recall, the conversation went something like this: “We have the dry fly all served up as the main course at the dinner table, but the fish can’t get to the dinner table. We’re serving them the damn dropper in the bedroom, in the hallway, and in the bathroom.” To my ears, this analogy was spot on.

Is Two Really Better Than One?

Suffice to say, there is a time and place for the dry/dropper rig. The two-fly combo covers more of the water column. A bushy dry fly may attract a trout’s attention when fish aren’t exactly looking up, then the dropper seals the deal. However, the dropper also inhibits the natural drift of a dry fly. As trout become ever more selective under increased fishing pressure, the dropper can work against you. Anglers have become overly reliant on the dropper nymph, particularly during peak dry fly season. It seems that adding a dropper to the dry has become a prerequisite at the put in. How did we arrive at this juncture?

The dry dropper rig
Adding a dropper to the dry during high water conditions

The Genesis of the Dry Support Fly

To my knowledge, the Chubby Chernobyl was the brainchild of a commercial fly company. Like any good pattern, this fly was designed to solve a specific problem. With commercial outfitting and angler recruitment on the rise across the country, the industry needed a buoyant dry fly that could withstand novice presentations and support a dropper nymph. The Chubby solved that dilemma and remains a quintessential component to the dry/dropper rig.https://www.tu.org/magazine/fishing/the-chubby-chernobyl/

The Jigged Nymph Joins the Dry/Dropper Team

About the same time the Chubby was introduced, some clever fly designer stole from the playbook of the terminal tackle team. Jigging utilizes a keeled hook, designed to bounce bait along the bottom while limiting snagging. This hook-point-up design became the foundation for standard nymph patterns like the Prince, Pheasant Tail, and Girdle Bug. Riding hook up allows for the dry dropper rig to be fished far more effectively. Again, another problem-solving design that resulted in the near perfection of the dry dropper rig.  

The Shortcut to a Bent Rod

With a Chubby as a support fly and a jigged nymph bouncing snag-free along the substrate, we have the ultimate shortcut to a bent rod. Guides throughout the Rockies can instruct their clients to throw 30 feet, throw a mend and essentially steer their bobber and jig into the lies for them. The dry fly acts as little more than a strike indicator. This is undeniably a proven method to put novice anglers in position to fool a few fish, but far from proper dry fly presentation.

A Rocky Mountain fly fishing guide’s box loaded with Chubbies

When The Dry Fly is Better Off Alone

When trout are hunting mayflies, caddis, hoppers, and stoneflies up top, why serve them a dropper? It stands to reason that fish rising to the dry fly encounter the dropper on their way up. In this instance, we our shorting ourselves on the dry fly experience by intercepting them with the dropper. A single dry can be fished tight to structure and on those skinny inside seams and tailouts where educated fish can inspect potential food items for inconsistencies. Dropper nymphs often hang up before these fish even get a look at either fly. Further, the dry/dropper rig is far more prone to tangles. All the time spent unraveling and re-rigging comes at the expense of actual fishing.

A lone dry fly can go places a dry/dropper rig can’t

An Unfurling Dry Fly is a Beautiful Thing

A single dry fly unfurling from a tight, uniform loop is a beautiful thing. The rise of a mature trout to that dry fly completes the sequence. Dry fly fishing on today’s trout rivers is a challenge requiring skill and attention to detail. This aptitude can be taught, but not with tungsten and four feet of fluorocarbon dangling from a dry fly. Its high time to refocus on the art of angling during the epic dry fly seasons that we are still fortunate enough to enjoy. Drop the dropper, and dupe /em with the dry! https://cd-fishing.us/flyfishing/ict-ii/